Jeff Bridges & The Abiders
Jeff Bridges wasn't always The Dude. In fact, we first got into him when he was a fabulous Baker boy. But nowadays he's the Dude through and through, and in concert last night at the El Rey he channeled Jeffrey Lebowski in numerous ways. Of course, there was his look — with his long hair and big goatee, he's a near mirror image of his The Big Lebowski character, except his hair is now more gray. Also there was his vernacular (very early '90s Venice), his band's name (The Abiders) and, of course, his songs.
The last tune before the encore was Bob Dylan's “Man In Me,” and the set also included a little Creedence, “Lookin' Out My Back Door.” In between saw an appearance by the man who masterminded the Lebowski soundtrack, T-Bone Burnett, who wore his traditional, weird, buttoned-all-the-way-up suit coat. Burnett was there mainly to lend guitar and vocal assistance to songs from the Crazy Heart soundtrack, which the two men helped produce, as well as “What a Little Love Can Do,” a great track from Bridges' self-titled 2011 solo album, which Burnett co-produced.
It's fair to say that nobody in attendance was there for the novelty of seeing an Oscar-winner play rock star. Bridges has been in bands since high school, though it's only since middle age that he got really serious, forming a band and releasing a couple of albums. Even though the room was far from full last night, it contained plenty of old pals, including his brother Beau and many of the guys who used to play with him back in high school.
Bridges' voice didn't sound as good as it does on record. In fact, it seemed a bit gravelly at first. Meanwhile, after a band miscommunication brought “The Quest” to an abrupt halt, Bridges apologized to the crowd. “I'm in the movies, I should be able to say take two!”
But whatever he lacks in chops, he makes up for in in charisma, and his between-song digressions were among the best parts of the night. He talked about stealing the guitar of Beau — eight years his senior — to jam, and also credited his bro with introducing him to artists like Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and the Everly Brothers. Another side note: Bridges wanted to call his band The Royal We, before the group's lap steel player suggested The Abiders instead.
Though he's spent the better part of the last month on the road, last night's show served as the final dress rehearsal before his set at this weekend's Stagecoach Festival. All in all, the guys played an assortment of alt-country, Americana, folk and roots music over the course of the 85-minute set. Bridges played guitar mostly, but also played keyboard for tracks including “The Man In Me.”
Some of the loudest cheers were reserved for the surprise guests, Burnett and also legendary Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, who came up during the encore.
Everyone was onstage for the last song, an electric version of The Byrds' “So You Wanna Be A Rock N Roll Star?” It was the best-sounding, most energetic song of the night and also one of the longest; a great jam session.
Critical Bias: We love Bridges so much he could have sung the tax code as far as we're concerned.
The Crowd: Calmer than you are.
Random Notebook Dump: The show started just after 8, and ended before 10!